Showing posts from 2012

Scirpus rubricosus

I have become increasingly aware and concerned about what appears to be a distinct species that is largely ignored/lumped in recent literature and completely unknown to most botanists. Several years ago when I first started working in wetland communities I was introduced to Scirpus cyperinus and its fitting misnomer “wool grass” (why not “wool sedge”?). Initially this was an easy species to recognize since it differed from other Midwestern Scirpus in having the following combination of morphological characters; average height of nearly two meters, folded (V-shaped) leaves (as opposed to the pleated M-shaped leaves of S. atrovirens), large diffuse inflorescences and achenes subtended with very long flocculent bristles that give the mature inflorescence a woolly appearance. And life was good……until I started to notice that there was something wrong. There appeared to be two very different morphologies within what I was calling S. cyperinus. Here they are side by side: The photo on t…

Dichanthelium werneri

Like many eager Sasquatch documentarians before me, I feel compelled to share a video of an organism whose existence is denied by the scientific community. If you know Dichanthelium linearifolium, this creature should look different to you for reasons I point out in the video.

Dichanthelium werneri had a brief but glorious history as a species until an uncharacteristically brash M.L. Fernald (1934) sunk it as a variety of D. linearifolium. I usually enjoy Fernald's take on botanical matters, but he really stepped over the limits of decency in his dealings with Panic Grasses. Many modern workers have buried it completely, largely based on Fernald's inertia I fear. With the exception of the treatment found in Hitchcock and Chase's "North American Species of Panicum" (from 1910), everyone says it is just a glabrous version of D. linearifolium. However, Hitchcock and Chase explain that the type specimen is in fact pubescent on the nodes and that this solid species mor…

Tragia ramosa: the spicy side of tactility

Ouch! Great Oden’s Raven!This is what I exclaim moments before I locate Tragia ramosa while fingering my way through a quadrat or as I sit for lunch in an open glade with a view and decide to lay back and reflect. The nasty needlish and nettle-like hairs of this gangly dweller of grassland understories deftly prick the skin and give you a dose of hot proteinaceous exudate that, tingling as it burns, lasts for hours after the encounter. Try to avoid it as I may, I become hostage to Tragia’s maniacal “gotcha” game time and time again. That being said, I am a big fan. It just has that lovable bulldoggish quality to it. And the fruits, how amazing are those bristly gynophorous brutes?
The complexity of Tragia’s pain delivery system is fascinating and has been intimately studied and explained by Thurston (1976). As explained by Thurston, each stinging “hair” is made up of four cells. Three of these cells are parallel to each other in an elongate fashion. The base of the triad is anc…